Authors, Books, Chingona, Death, Ester Hernandez, Grief, Have You Seen Marie?, Loss, Sandra Cisneros

Have You Seen Marie?

“For those without a mother, without a father, without even a dog to make a bother.”

This quote is on the dedication page of Sandra Cisneros new book, HAVE YOU SEEN MARIE? 

The crux of the story is about a woman’s search for a cat who goes missing in the aftermath of her mother’s death. 

There is so much to love about this book before one even begins reading. From the first page of illustrations, by Ester Hernandez, artista extraordinaire, I was captured by their serenity and vibrancy. (She is in the photo, on the left of my favorite chingona, Sandra Cisneros). 

Some of the images in the book reminded me of Japanese woodcuts. Others, vivacious colored pencil drawings. The illustrations perfectly accompany the melodic text and characterize the many  people and moods found in the novel. 

An overriding sense of grief and loss weave throughout the story. There are touches of humor, but overall the sadness is palpable. I sighed in some sections, teared up in others.The author calls her book a 

                 “fable for grownups,” and for “orphans in midlife.”  

But I can see parents reading this to children, older kids reading to younger, and all of them enthralled and touched by the story. 

Ms. Cisneros uses imagery, simile and metaphor better than most. Her words put a smile on my face when I read “…his truck backfiring like the Fourth of July, like always.” “…a squirrel flicked her tail like a housewife shaking a dirty dust rag.” “…silver women in their silver years laughed like bells.”

This is a book I will keep for years and no doubt re-read several times. It is worth buying the hardcover book for the beautiful illustrations. Also, do not skip the afterword and acknowledgements. There is a lovely story there too. 

I will buy another book and give it to my mother, who lost both of her parents before she was twelve years of age. She continues to feel the loss. I don’t know if it will help her or not, but I do know it will affect her in ways that are different from those who have not gone through this type of grief.  I hope that this quote will be true for her:

“There is no getting over death, only learning how to travel alongside it.” Sandra Cisneros 

 To hear from the author about why she wrote the book, click on this short interview:

You can find HAVE YOU SEEN MARIE? at, B & N, or your favorite bookstore. Just so readers know: I have not been given a book in exchange for a review. I just love to post information whenever I read a really good book. 

Chingona, Diary of a Pakistan Girl, Education, Education for girls, Girls Plus Education Equals, Literacy, Malala, Taliban

How One Girl’s Blog Impacted the World

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”- Nelson Mandela

By now you have heard or read the news stories about 14 year old Malala Yousufzai. 

On October 9, 2012 gunmen stopped a van carrying Malala and her classmates as they returned from school in the Swat Valley, Pakistan. 

Gunmen jumped inside a van carrying Malala. They ordered students to point her out. The men opened fired, wounding her in the neck and head. Two others, Shazlea and Kainat, were also wounded. The Taliban stated they initiated this horrendous attack and vowed to kill Malala if she survives. She is now in the U.K  being treated for debilitating wounds. 

How did this girl enter into the cross hairs of the Taliban’s weapons?

She was an 11 year old who had a power of conviction highly unusual for a young girl. 
That’s correct, she began blogging three years ago. Instead of accepting what was happening  in her town, ignoring her passion, pushing down her feelings, letting fear silence her convictions, she used her voice. She started a blog. 

Bien chingona this young girl. A girl anyone would be proud to call m’ija. 

Her blog, Diary of a Pakistan Girl, began in 2009. Abdul Hai Kakkar, a BBC reporter, had first approached Ziauddin Yousafzai, a local school director, to get a female teacher to write about life under the Swat Taliban. No teacher agreed, but his eleven-year-old daughter, a seventh-grade student, was interested in writing a diary. Malala passed on hand-written diary pages to the reporter. He would post her entries. 

January 15, 2009

“The night was filled with the noise of artillery fire and I woke up three times. But since there was no school I got up later at 10 am. Afterwards, my friend came over and we discussed our homework.Today is 15 January, the last day before the Taleban’s edict comes into effect, and my friend was discussing homework as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.”

February 8, 2009
“I felt hurt on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box. Boys’ schools are opening tomorrow. But the Taliban have banned girls’ education…
My brother’s school is also reopening and he has not done his homework.”

Malala continued to blog and grew an immense online presence with students and others in the world internet community. In an interview with CNN she said, 

 “I was scared of being beheaded by the Taliban because of my passion for education…    During their rule, the Taliban used to march into our houses to check whether we were studying or watching television.” 

In 2011 she was awarded Pakistan’s first peace prize. With the accolades came more threats from the Taliban.  

She didn’t stop blogging nor did she stop fighting for education for girls. 

“I have the right of education,” she said. “I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.”

Malala’s story of defiance and survival has triggered an online petition and support pages rallying for Malala and her fight for girls’ education. An online “I am Malala” petition is demanding that girls get better access to education. 

The U.K’s former Prime Minister wrote an article about why we should be furious and carry on Malala’s passion. 

Before the attack, Malala was in the process of starting a charity, the Malala Education Development Organization, to promote female education in northern Pakistan. Other organizations are also working in the region to turn her dream into a reality for all girls in Pakistan.

What can we as individuals do? Click and sign a petition, click and donate to a literacy charity of your choice, converse with students (your own kids) about freedom of education, and  support education in our own country. 

Girls + Education=

Once Malala recovers, which may be months from now, I am betting that she will continue to blog, do interviews, write a book, and continue with her goal of becoming a political leader so that she can ensure justice for girls and women. 

Be a part of that effort. 

Chingona, Dolores Huerta, Jennifer Gordon Low, Madeline Albright, Medal of Freedom awards 2012, Pat Summit, Strong Women, Toni Morrison

The 5 Women Awarded the Medal of Freedom 2012

Today President Obama’s awarded the Medal of Freedom to these five women: 

AP photo

Madeline Albright former Secretary of State and the first woman to hold the top U.S. diplomatic job. Granddaughter of Holocaust victims and who also survived the WW II Blitz.

Juliette Gordon Low, who 100 years ago founded the Girl Scouts, at 45 years of age, divorced, deaf and childless. Her purpose, “to train girls to take their rightful places in life, first as good women, then as good citizens, wives, and mothers.

AP Photo

Dolores Huerta, co-founder of  the United Farm Workers of America. Daughter of a divorced parent, her community activism started when she was in Girl Scout’s. Huerta has 11 children. She became a teacher but resigned.
 ” I couldn’t stand seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children.”

AP photo

Toni Morrison, author of such novels as “Song of Solomon” and “Beloved.” Her life began during the severe economic times of the Great Depression. She became an English professor and editor before she became an author with over 25 fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books, as well as a playwright. “Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” 

Pat Summit, former basketball coach who led the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team to more NCAA Final Four appearances than any other team.  She coached the U.S. women’s team to an Olympic gold medal, becoming the first U.S. Olympian to win a basketball medal and coach a medal-winning team. Now battling Alzeheimer’s, she has retired after 38 years. “There’s not going to be any pity party and I’ll make sure of that.

This year’s there are more women than ever before receiving the Medal of Freedom. This is the nation’s highest civilian honor. It is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the national interests of the United States, to world peace or to other significant endeavors.

It is not known how many women have received the award since it’s inception by President Harry S. Truman in 1945, but this year there are five female recipients out of 13 awardee’s. In a count, from available data the last nineteen years, only 42 women out of approximately 225 had received the award. 

The stat’s are mentioned just to give you an understanding of these women’s significant achievements. We don’t need to wait for next year’s Women’s History Month to celebrate women. These awards are something to acknowledge, celebrate, and share with other women, especially daughters, nieces, granddaughters. 

These women did not have an easy life, all had challenges, all of them found their purpose, and contributed to their community and society. And that has all the makings of strong women.  

Authors, Chingona, Chingonas, How to be a Chingona, Latina writer, Loose Woman, Sandra Cisneros, Strong Women, Wisdom

How to Be a Chingona in Ten Easy Steps-Sandra Cisneros

For some reason I had Sandra Cisneros on my mind. In my quest for something interesting to read tonight I pulled out her books from my bookshelf. 

LOOSE WOMAN is always an interesting book of poems and seemed apropos to read on a full moon night. I reread my favorite poem “You Bring Out the Mexican in Me,” and wished I had picked up a Cabernet at Trader Joe’s. If you’ve never heard it before, take a listen. She read the poem on NPR a few years ago.

So back to Sandra. I put the book of poems away and jumped on my laptop to view Sandra’s site (yes, I know I’m being very familiar but that’s what her writing does to me,I think she’s my amiga or comadre). I looked for her 2012 presentations, but they are in North Carolina and Japan.

Sandra spoke at the Coca Cola Tour Adelante a few days ago (unfortunately the video disappeared),
I took notes of her talk so I’ll list the points. 

1. Live for your own approval. Center yourself. Be alone. Create your own space.

2 .Discover your own powers. What floods you with joy?

3 .Find true humility and practice it.

4 .Keep your palabra, your word.

5. What are you using to cover or mask your pain? Address it.

6. Your only true possessions are your actions.

7. Seek forgiveness.

8. Live in the present moment.

9. Depression has a purpose if you use it before it uses you. (Profound wisdom). Transform it to light. Compost it through art. If you can’t do it by yourself, see a professional curandera (healer, therapist).

10. Listen to your body.

There you go, 10 steps in 10 minutes. Are you feeling the power yet?

These are my own thoughts on a definition for Chingona*. Feel free to add your own:

*Bad ass, powerful, wise woman, muy macha, activist in their community and/or home, talented, smart, resourceful, kick ass…